INDIANAPOLIS — A first in IHSAA state finals history helped the Columbus East Olympians win their third championship and avenge last year’s disappointment.
The Class 5A No. 2 Olympians (14-1) beat the Kokomo Wildkats 42-28 on Friday night at Lucas Oil Stadium with a bruising, record-setting rushing attack.
Senior quarterback Josh Major and senior running backs Jaedin Miller and Jamon Hogan each rushed for more than 100 yards. It was the first time in the history of the state finals that a team had three 100-yard rushers.
Miller led the Olympians with 132 yards and three touchdowns.
“I can’t explain how amazing this feels right now,” Miller said. “It was my last high school game. I had to put everything out there, couldn’t leave anything else on the field.”
Hogan gained 112 yards, and Major rushed for 107 yards and two scores. Major also had a touchdown pass.
East avenged last year’s 16-13 loss to Westfield in the 5A title game to capture their third state title in school history and the second in the past five years.
“It makes it that much sweeter,” Major said. “I remember walking of the field (last year), none of us wanted to feel that way ever again. We worked extremely hard to get back here, coaches and everyone. To get it done this time feels amazing.”
Major scored on the Olympians’ first drive of the game on a 1-yard touchdown before the Wildkats (9-5) responded with a 5-yard Jack Perkins scoring run on the following drive.
East opened the second quarter with a 12-play drive that went 74 yards and culminated with a 2-yard run from Miller.
The defense — aided by junior linebacker Nash Murphy’s 14 tackles — came away with a key turnover on the next drive with the Olympians already leading 14-7. Senior Ty Henderson forced a fumble that was recovered by senior Caleb Pettit on the Kokomo 24-yard line.
“We needed a turnover to kind of get momentum back on our side, especially after they came back-to-back on touchdowns,” Henderson said. “I think that turnover really did something for our defense and our offense to get us going and know that we can play with anybody. We can make plays happen at any time.”
Major turned that takeaway into a touchdown when he scored on a 5-yard run three plays later.
Kokomo continued to battle and a 28-yard pass to from Kyle Wade to Perkins jump-started a nine play drive that went for 90 yards and a touchdown. Wade connected with Luke Cameron for a 16-yard pass to cut the East halftime lead to 21-14.
“At halftime, I was a little concerned because they got after us pretty good,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “We kind of challenged (our players’) manhood at halftime, and their character came through. They really played well.”
A quick three-and-out by East gave the Wildkats a chance to tie the game. They started the drive strong and got all the way down to the Olympians 34. However, East’s defense held up and came away with a turnover on downs.
“The thing that is going to go unseen is that our defense came up with some stops in the second half,” Gaddis said. “Huge stops got the ball back for us, which made us win the football game.”
The offense cashed in on the turnover on downs with a 44-yard pass from Major to Klayton Brummett to go up 28-14.
Kokomo continued to battle and drove the ball down to the East 18-yard line to end the third quarter. The Wildkats opened the fourth quarter by converting on a fourth-and-2 before scoring on a 2-yard run by Cameron to cut the lead to 28-21.
On the next series, Miller broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run on to put East back up 35-21. A 36-yard pass from Kokomo’s Wade gave the Wildkats some momentum, but a 14-yard sack stalled another drive. They were forced to punt with just under six minutes left.
The Olympians continued to do what they have done all year — run the ball. They ran 3:18 off the clock before Miller punched in another 1-yard touchdown to cap off his stellar night.
The Wildkats scored the final touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Wade to Perkins with two seconds left, but it was too late to affect the outcome.